Monday, October 05, 2009

Thrift Vs Spendthrift

The classic dilemma of nature or nurture stares us in the face again with this issue. Is being thrifty or frugal observed and learned from the people around us? Or is it hardwired in our genes? Is it a learned virtue or packed into our heredity luggage from which there is no escape?

NY Magazine does battle with this hefty issue while reviewing a book on the subject.

Examples abound of families where siblings are divided on being thrifty or being spendthrift, despite the parents being themselves frugal and consciously teaching their kids to also be frugal. Thus, situations like those argue well for the claim that frugality or being a spendthrift is in the genes, rather than learned from mentors or parents.

A heretofore unheard-of facet injected to this age-old question is the hypothesis that pain is associated with the purchases of goods (though not true to all). And what determines whether an item will eventually be purchased is the threshold of pain that a purchaser has developed. And I could personally attest to this. It is truly painful to part with money, especially hard-earned money, if the item purchased sits astride between being a want or a need. Add to that the extra concern that the money could be saved for an anticipated future expense that definitely is both crucial and necessary.

But of course not all people feel the pain; others simply not tuned in either to the future or to the many ramifications tied up with a purchase. Or maybe others do not want to be bothered by such details. Others I am familiar with can dismiss any unnecessary or extravagant impulse purchase with the cavalier caveat, not to worry about the future, someone else will take of it, or worse, God will provide.

A blog devoted to issues of money and personal finance has a couple of entries delving on the issue of frugality. In one blog entry, the author solicited information from his readers on the manifold “motivational factors” why frugality is practiced, apart and other than for money considerations or as a money-saving tool.

Since it is quite relevant during these very difficult times to be a prudent spender when money is even scarcer, here is an enumeration of all the possible motivational factors as extracted from the blog entry and from its comment section from readers:

1. Saving Time – like what walking is to driving in certain situations.

2. Attitudes as the Priority – wearing old clothes until they are unwearable because one prefers it or is attached to them. Or because of one’s dislike for shopping.

3. A Question of Preferences – Brownbagging lunch to work to avoid the hassles of buying at work.

4. Lack of Resources – This forces or conditions one to be frugal. Maybe due to meager finances or absence of means like a car to allow for more frequent purchases.

5. Individual Habits or Quirks – Like squeezing the last drop from a toothpaste tube, the last drop from a soda can, or catsup bottle.

6. Environmental Advocacies – Likes being “green”, so no wastage of nature’s resources.

7. For a Healthier Lifestyle – Drinking water instead of soda, using manual tools instead of power tools.

8. Stress Reduction – Buying less equals to less to worry about.

9. A Feeling of Superiority – Over those who waste money?

10. Gaining Control – Doing or making things yourself allows better control over the outcome – food more nutritious, garments fit better, investments earn more.

11. Getting Comfort – A rented DVD played at home rather than going to a movie house allows enjoyment of the comforts of home and control of other factors like sounds, noise, warmth, etc.

12. What about Laziness – Cooking larger volumes or portions at one sitting, to be consumed for say an entire week, or eating at home rather than eating out.

13. Ethics and Spirituality – Aiming for a simple life absent many material trappings.

14. As Creative Challenges – Testing determination and resolve in doing things untried. Or being resourceful with what one already has.

15. Cultural Predispositions – Arguably in certain cultures the frugality trait is inculcated as a necessary virtue for everyday living.